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Due to the extreme heat, temperatures inside Clayton are currently very warm and the temperature fluctuates in each room. Please plan accordingly when considering your visit.
Parking Lot Closure
Our parking lot will be closed from Thursday, June 20 through Sunday, June 23 due to an event. Free parking is available along Reynolds St. and Homewood Ave.
Site Closed Early
The Frick will close at 4:30 p.m. for a private event on Saturday, June 22. The Café at the Frick will close at 1:00 p.m.

The Fricks Take a Trip: The Baths of Baden-Baden

The Fricks Take a Trip: The Baths of Baden-Baden
August 15, 2019 By: Sue Morris, Clayton Docent

The Fricks Take a Trip: The Baths of Baden-Baden

This photo of Henry Clay Frick conducting an imaginary orchestra provides us with a glimpse of a very different personality than the one typically associated with Pittsburgh’s steely-eyed labor foe. 

Henry Clay Frick outside of the Conversationshaus in Baden-Baden, Germany. Taken during the Frick family’s 1905 trip abroad. Photo courtesy of The Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library Archives. 

The photo comes from a scrapbook, digitized by the Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library Archives, documenting the Frick family’s travels through France, Switzerland, and Germany in 1905. This picture was taken outside the Conversationshaus in Baden-Baden, a spa town on the edge of the Black Forest in southwest Germany. Its population in 1905 was 16,238, but the number of visitors to the town exceeded 70,000 annually. 

Baden-Baden’s enduring appeal is in its hot mineral springs, considered to be curative water spas. The ancient Romans baths established in the area in AD 80 were precursors to medicinal baths that the Fricks likely visited in 1905. Baden-Baden began attracting European royalty to its waters in the late 1700s. By the time the Fricks visited, the town was entrenched as a destination where wealthy Americans and Europeans came to “take the waters.” 

Henry Clay Frick is standing in the outdoor space where the town’s orchestra played. In a moment of whimsy, he seems to be pretending to conduct an imaginary band with his walking stick or a baton. The building behind Mr. Frick dates to 1824. Designed by Karlsruhe-born architect Friedrich Weinbrenner (1766–1826), the classically-inspired palace’s eight sandstone Corinthian columns became a symbol of Baden-Baden’s wealth and luxury. 


Contemporary Kurhaus, the former Conversationhaus, at Baden-Baden. Photo courtesy of Kurhaus Baden-Baden.

L., L. Baden-Baden. – Conversationshaus., 1890. Photo courtesy of National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo. NMK.2007.8359

By the Fricks’ visit in 1905, the building also served as a reminder of Baden-Baden’s former “roulette days,” when it had housed a casino, along with various drawing, dining, and concert salons. Gambling had been suspended Baden-Baden since the 1870s, but the town remained a luxury travel destination. In 1905, the building was still central to Baden-Baden’s fashionable social life as a Conversationshaus, along with an adjacent pump room or Trinkhalle, and an outdoor Musikpavillon. English novelist E.W. Hornung wrote in his 1903 novel No Hero: 

         
          She had probably gone to the Conversationshaus, to listen to the band. All Baden
          went there in the afternoon, to listen to that band. It was a very good band.
          Baden-Baden was a very good place. 
 

Henry Clay Frick outside of the Trinkhalle in Baden-Baden, Germany. Taken during the Frick family’s 1905 trip abroad. Photo courtesy of The Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library Archives. 

Contemporary Trinkhalle at Baden-Baden. Photo courtesy of Kurhaus Baden-Baden.

Contemporary Trinkhalle at Baden-Baden. Photo courtesy of Kurhaus Baden-Baden.

The name Baden-Baden itself loosely translates into “taking the cure,” which neatly sums up why people came from far and wide to soak in its warm waters. The town’s 29 hot springs varied in temperature from 115° to 153° F and were thought to be curative for cases of chronic rheumatism, gout, paralysis, neuralgia, skin diseases, and various internal complaints like kidney stones. Mr. Frick may have been drawn to the town seeking relief for the bouts of inflammatory rheumatism he suffered throughout his life. His wife Adelaide had her own aches and pains; a year after the Fricks’ visit to Baden-Baden, The New York Times noted that a pool was added to the family’s summer estate, Eagle Rock, because, “Physicians have recommended salt water bathing for Mrs. Frick.” 

Today, Baden-Baden retains its status as an elegant resort town, a few miles from the French border, in the German state of Baden-Württemberg. You can still “take the waters” in various spa hotels. The former Trinkhalle is now the town’s tourist information center, housing a café where you can buy a drink of the warm, salty, supposedly curative water from a fountain. You can visit the former Conversationshaus, which is part of the luxurious Das Kurhaus Casino complex. The building Mr. Frick posed in front of is now the Weinbrennersaal, used for concerts by the internationally renowned Baden-Baden Philharmonic Orchestra. Perhaps there’s even a baton lying around for you to pose with!

Contemporary Kurhaus, the former Conversationhaus, at Baden-Baden. Photo courtesy of Kurhaus Baden-Baden.

Contemporary Kurhaus, the former Conversationhaus, at Baden-Baden. Photo courtesy of Kurhaus Baden-Baden.

Contemporary Kurhaus, the former Conversationhaus, at Baden-Baden. Photo courtesy of Kurhaus Baden-Baden.

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